I’ve just returned from a seminar on search engine optimisation for smaller business operators presented by the operator of an up-and-coming provider not far from where I live.
And it turned out to be one of the better ones run by the business group concerned.
It was brilliantly presented, informative, clever and interactive. It provided a clear and detailed rundown on how smaller businesses could improve their lot on Google and other search engines. And there were more questions than the presenter could hope to field in the time available.
The organisers couldn’t really be happier with the presentation.
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Blinded with science?
But looking around the well-attended room and hearing some of the comments being murmured during the presentation, it was clear that despite the clear and articulate presentation, many attendees were quite befuddled by a field much more science than art.
So, inadvertently (or perhaps not), the presenter painted as much a case for ‘this will overwhelm you’ as he did ‘this will help you’.
And when it comes to smaller business, he is not alone.
Because it’s a dilemma every smaller business operator soon gets to know well: Do I invest my time and money in learning to do it or do I pay someone else to do it for me?
And just as every business is different, so too is the answer.
Working in or on the business
Of course the ‘work on rather than in the business’ exponents will push the ‘pay someone else’ line, while others will insist on the DIY approach.
Others simply won’t have the resources to hire someone to do it so will either have to rely on favours from friends and family or learn it themselves; which, in turn, means they are spending valuable time on something they are not proficient in at the expense of earning more doing what they do best.
What, why, how, who and how much
In practice, I’ve found this kind of knowledge breaks into two distinct levels of understanding – the ‘what and why’ and the ‘how’.
The ‘what and why’ level is about understanding the reasons behind your business decision.
So, in the case above, the ‘what’ is search engine optimisation – the practice of arranging your website to best attract the attentions of search engines for the most prominent positioning and the ‘why’ is fundamentally to achieve better Return On Investment for your marketing dollar.
The ‘how’ revolves around a growing range of techniques to best optimise your website and, if necessary, supplement it with paid advertising.
It’s the role of all business operators to have an understanding of the what and why of any business discipline that affects them.
The ‘how’ though may well be better left to experts who can do it better, faster and potentially cheaper than the DIY path.
An aid to decision-making
The beauty of events like the one I went to is that it helps business operators decide which course of action is best for them:
- Learning the skills themselves
- Training a staff member to learn them
- Hiring a provider to manage it for them
When all is said and done, search engine optimisation, like many online marketing skills, is really no different to hiring a book-keeper.
Although, as raised in this blog before, another decision that you need to make is whether you need a search engine specialist or an online marketing generalist.
Whether it’s in-house or outsourced is up to your resources, how close it is to your core business and ongoing plans for your marketing.
Craig Reardon is a writer, educator and operator of independent web services firm for SMEs, The E Team.